Software vendors… supercharge their apps with AI. But why?

13 June 2024

This is a disturbing trend, vendors of software and apps, in particular those that have been around for years, suddenly introducing AI functionality. Indeed, whose idea was this?

What Apple announced looks like more of the same that’s been offered lately. Help writing emails that don’t need to be written, bad generative images that look little better than anything else on the market and a dubious integration with OpenAI which feels super weird given the former’s much marketed stance on privacy and the latter’s dubious respect for anyone’s data.

An app I use to read PDF documents, is an example. I just want to read PDF files… I don’t need help from an AI assistant for that. I’ve barely blinked at the feature so far, but who knows, maybe I should.

Perhaps the AI helper, will, like some book reading apps, scan the document, and return a summary of its contents, sparing the need to read it in full. Now that I think about it: no, I won’t find out if that’s one of the AI assistant’s purposes. That seems like a slippery-slope to me.

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Well-built furniture should last centuries, not a couple of years

12 June 2024

Tim Bray:

When Lauren was pregnant with a child who’s now turning 25, we purchased a comfy dark-brown leather sofa which fits our living room nicely. What with kids and relatives and employees and cats and Standards Comittees and friends and book clubs and socials, the butt-support cushions had, a quarter century later, worn out. So we had them replaced, at a fair price, by a small local business. Which is something that modern capitalism is trying to make impossible.

An old neighbour runs a furniture recycling business. His speciality is something called mid-twentieth-century furniture, sometimes mid-century furniture. It has a darker, wood stain/grain look, and really isn’t my thing. But it’s sturdy, well-built furniture, and will still be here long after the self-assembly particle-board stuff, this is presently so popular, has crumbled into ruin.

Short wonder my neighbour can’t keep up with demand for furniture that’s seventy-years old.

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Hello Linux, farewell to toxic Windows operating systems

11 June 2024

I’ve read a stack of articles recently about Windows 11 (11), the successor operating system (OS) to Windows 10 (10), and am not liking a single thing I’ve seen. Microsoft (MS) will soon begin forcing users to install Windows 11, whether they like it or not.

If that’s not toxic behaviour on Microsoft’s part, what is?

10 has been with us since 2015, and MS will end support for it in October 2025. In the ordinary course of events, long time Windows users have generally migrated to the newest OS, when one becomes available. And usually because the new version is seen as an improvement on the old.

But not always. Windows ME, released in September 2000, as a successor to Windows 98, was a notable exception. And so far, 11 is being received in a similar fashion. An OS featuring adverts? An OS coercing users to adopt certain apps, for instance the Edge browser, instead of one of their choice? These are among reasons I’m steering clear of 11.

To make matter worse, users will need to create a MS account when installing 11. This means providing MS with an email address. To date, I’ve been using a “local account”. In short, that entails choosing a username and a password. Nice and simple, end of story. It might seem like a “so-what” matter, but users should be able to make the choice.

If someone wants to set up a MS account fine, but no one should be forced to. And yes, I’m aware there are advantages to having a MS account, but to my mind that’s beside the point. Apart from 10, an old Hotmail account, and Word and Excel, I use few other MS products. I’m not keen on being “encouraged” to sign up for anything else, which I’m sure would be the case, if I had a MS account. As for storing my data and files on the likes of OneDrive: no thanks.

Another bugbear (and doesn’t MS just love to annoy its user base?) is forced restarts after OS updates. Regular updates are necessary to main the integrity of any OS, but generally there is some flexibility as to when users can elect to reboot/restart their devices, so the updates can take effect.

I do this when I’ve finished working, at a time that suits me. But in typical fashion, what suits users doesn’t suit MS. Some 11 users, who run processes on their devices that take weeks to complete, have complained there is no way to delay a system restart after OS updates have been installed. The result is lost work, when auto-restart commences.

Previously, it was possible to delay these auto update restarts, but not anymore. No doubt MS will defend this behaviour by claiming “most people” don’t run processes lasting weeks. It makes you wonder what MS thinks of its users. Do they think everyone is exactly the same? There’s no think different at MS?

But enough complaining. This coming from a one-time Windows fan*. Maybe it’s me that’s changed. I’ve simply outgrown Windows operating systems. And why would I continue using Windows instead of something like Linux? Am I not, after all, #IndieWeb/#SmallWeb? How could wanting to use an OS like Windows even be in my DNA? It’s high time I became #IndieOS.

A few days ago, I installed Linux Mint on my backup laptop. When I buy a new device, I keep the previous machine as a spare. It’s not too old, I bought it about four years ago, but that it handled a new OS installation, and is (so far) running smoothly, is a good start. Linux Mint is one of many Linux OS’s, or distributions, on offer, but is considered to be user-friendly from a newbies point of view, and somewhat mimics the Windows OS experience.

I had been considering making the switch for some time, but the main stumbling block has been finding suitable replacements for some of applications I’ve been using for decades on Windows. Chief among them is Photoshop. While there are Linux-friendly alternatives for most the apps I use on Windows, the Photoshop-like options aren’t quite the same. At the moment I’m looking at installing sort of virtual environment app on the Linux setup to run Abode products.

But it’s been well worth making the move. Linux Mint is not a carbon-copy of Windows 10, but it is relatively similar. If you’re likewise a long time Windows user, I’d suggest installing Linux on an older, spare device first, if that’s possible. That way you can go through the preparation and installation process as a test run, while getting used to a new OS.

The installation process was mostly straightforward, but it’s a rainy afternoon sort of undertaking. It can take time, so best to block off at least a half a day initially. Having a holiday, three-day weekend, open to me, was a definite advantage. There are ample help resources available, with the answers to most questions you might have, only a search engine query away.

If you are making the move from Windows to Linux, all the best. It’s not overly difficult or complicated, just new and different.

*Granted, that was long time ago. I was still using, lol, dial-up networking when I wrote that post.

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Alien: Romulus, the Alien story continues. Great poster though

7 June 2024

Movie poster for Alien: Romulus. The poster has a red background and depicts an alien creature attached to a person's face.

Best I keep this brief, especially after complaining about film franchises continually rebooting and retelling the same story. Alien: Romulus (isn’t Romulus a planet in the Star Trek universe? Yeah, I thought so), is a story about some people on a spaceship, whose lives are threatened by a sinister alien stowaway. Reminds me a lot of a film called Alien, but that must be a coincidence, right?

Anyway, here’s the teaser/trailer for Alien: Romulus.

You’d have thought better lit spaceships would have been designed after Alien, but no. Like, wouldn’t it be a good idea to eliminate as many dark nooks and crannies as possible, so you know, sinister aliens can’t hide in them, and terrorise the crew?

Well-lit spaceships are also kind of practical, sinister aliens notwithstanding. Wouldn’t the crew want to be able to walk around the vessel, without tripping over, because they can’t see where they’re going? But what’s the point of utile design, if it means the same film can’t be remade time and again?

While there’s a stack of films whose trailers were better than the film itself, we just might find the poster for Alien: Romulus trumps both trailer and the feature itself. Alien: Romulus opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday 15 August 2024. Needless to say, I’ll be camping outside the cinema the night before so I can be among the first to see it on opening day.

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Wake Up Dead Man, by Rian Johnson, with Daniel Craig: Benoit Blanc returns

7 June 2024

Great news for fans of 2019 thriller/comedy/whodunit, Knives Out… a follow up is on the way. Daniel Craig will reprise his role as private detective Benoit Blanc, in Wake Up Dead Man, due for cinematic release sometime in 2025. Check out the teaser/trailer, though it’s more teaser than trailer.

Good to hear CSI KFC’s voice again. I liked Knives Out so much I watched it three times.

It was also good to see Craig in a James Bond like role that was not James Bond. I gave up on the Bond films years ago. The world needs more filmmakers like Johnson, who create and write their own original characters. Rather than maintaining the apparent status quo, which sees the same old story rebooted and retold decade after decade. I’m looking at you James Bond. Or rather, I’m not.

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Four-day workweeks are nigh, followed by zero-day workweeks

6 June 2024

There has been talk of the four-day workweek for as long as I can remember. We were told about it when I started school. Yet it’s to fully, properly, officially, arrive. The work week is still, for the most part, in many places, five days: Monday to Friday.

We don’t live in an age where Monday to Thursday is the norm. Or, as I’d prefer it, if four day weeks becomes a thing: Tuesday to Friday.

The sooner Monday absorbed into a three-day weekend, the better. No more Mondayitis hey? Still, a four-day work week is stepping closer. A number of companies and government organisations are embracing it, as Andrew Keshner writes for Marketwatch.

For the record, I will however strive to continue posting to disassociated at least five-days per week*.

But what of the zero-day workweek… utopia, we also heard about at school? When computers were meant to be doing everything, so people didn’t have to lift a finger. If AI is all it is cracked up to be, the zero-day workweek may likewise be nigh. But, as Joanna Maciejewska says, we’re not presently training AI correctly to bring that about:

I want AI to do my laundry and dishes so that I can do art and writing, not for AI to do my art and writing so that I can do my laundry and dishes.

We need to be training AI to do the grunt work, not the creative stuff. It’s very simple really. If we’re no longer going to the workplace (and presumably living in a universal basic income world), we’re going to need something to do with the time we’ll have in all those seven-day weekends, fifty-two weeks of the year. You’re already looking at what I’ll be doing when the zero-day workweek arrives.

But what about you? What will you do when the work-free utopia of the future materialises?

* excluding (possibly) holidays, etc.

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An extremely simple way to detect potential late bloomers

5 June 2024

Colonel Sanders founded KFC at age sixty-two. Anna Mary Robertson Moses AKA Grandma Moses, started painting when she was seventy-six, and had an illustrious career spanning twenty-five years. American actor Kathryn Joosten began her Hollywood career aged fifty-six.

These are just a few examples of people who are considered to be late bloomers. Those who found their calling in life at around the same time their contemporaries were either retired, or gearing up to cease working. That potentially means if you’re of a certain age, someone in your peer group may be about to step into the starting blocks.

But who might that be? According to London based writer and speaker Henry E. Oliver, there a few tell-tale signs:

  • Look for people who have been successful in the past
  • Look for people with secret lives
  • Look for the people who don’t fit in
  • Look for loners and those who are happy to change their context
  • Put up a beacon

Yah, put up a beacon is an obvious one (actually, I have no idea what that means). But forget the beacon. If you’re looking to find a would-be late bloomer among your friends and acquaintances, look-out for the ones with secret lives. Shouldn’t be too hard. Oh wait.

If someone has a secret life, that means — or is supposed to mean — no one else knows about it. While that may sound like a problem, it’s in fact only a detail. All we need do now is work backwards to identify the late bloomers in our lives. Start with the beacon. I assume that’ll stand out. Then pick out the loners, and those who don’t fit in. After that, anyone who has been successful previously.

Once you have four out of five, it’s just a case of finding out if they have a secret life. And that’s a simple matter of posing a discreetly worded question. You could say something like, “Oh hey, did I tell about an old friend of mine, [insert name of fake friend here]? Turns out they’ve been living a secret double life for a couple of decades.”

If your acquaintance seems startled, it might mean you’re onto something. Then you could follow-up, by saying “But that’s nothing you’d know anything about, right?” If their immediate response is a hasty successions of no’s, that it’s as good confirmed: your friend has a secret life, and could well be a late bloomer in the making.

Spotting potential late bloomers is easy when you know what you’re doing…

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People may not read longer novels, but they do win literary awards

4 June 2024

Tangentially related to the last post. Longer novels might pose a challenge to certain readers, especially those who require apps to do the reading for them. But, longer titles are more likely to win literary awards:

Judgment and decision-making research suggests several causes of the apparent bias. One is the representativeness heuristic: longer novels resemble the tomes that constitute the foundations of the Western canon, and this similarity may subconsciously sway judges.

Winning a prize is obviously great for the author in question, but are they left wondering just how many people read their book, cover to cover? Especially those on the award judging panel

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Conquer your TBR with apps that read books in fifteen minutes

4 June 2024

Such apps don’t exactly read novels in fifteen minutes, but they scan through them, and produce relatively short summaries. Seems like cheating to me, don’t we read books to be taken along on a journey? Still, I imagine these apps have their uses.

Like, where were they when I was at high school? Especially when assigned to read Vanity Fair. With all respect to William Makepeace Thackeray. I did like the last chapter though. Ah! Vanitas Vanitatum!

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Five-thousand kilometre long cloud-band across Australia

3 June 2024

The Daily Aus (TDA), Friday, 31 May 2024:

Rain is forecast across 90% of the country over the coming days as a 5,000km ‘cloudband’ makes its way from WA‘s north to south-east Australia.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), a ‘northwest cloudband’ is an extensive layer of air and moisture from over the Indian Ocean that can bring widespread rain to much of the country.

The cloud-band was not only extremely long, and also full to brimming with moisture. While rainfall remained constant throughout Saturday, there were some decidedly heavy downpours at times. These invariably came along just as we’d parked the car, and needed to cross a street to shelter, or while outside at some exposed mid-point between buildings.

We stopped at a cafe, a nice place, located in what was once a small warehouse, with an open ceiling with a corrugated iron roof. But we could barely hear ourselves speak at times, though during some of the showers, so heavy were they.

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